By Jordan Cochran
The Falany Performing Arts Center’s Flint Hall stage has been quiet since last spring but will once again be filled with Reinhardt student musicians this semester.
The Reinhardt University Wind Ensemble will perform two concerts, livestreamed on social media for all to virtually attend. Those following the Falany Performing Arts Center Facebook page can tune in on Feb. 25 and April 22 at 7 p.m. to listen to the live performances.
To accommodate COVID protocols, the traditional wind ensemble will separate into two, smaller groups. This year’s wind ensemble is comprised of music majors and minors, non-music major instrumentalists and four area high school musicians from Pickens and Cherokee County high schools.
Dr. Kerry Bryant, director of instrumental activities, knew he would need to find creative alternatives to traditional rehearsals and performances. The current pandemic required new protocols for these student musicians as the nature of playing many instruments includes actions that would spread the virus, as found by research conducted by the College Band Directors National Association.
“Splitting the band into two smaller bands, alternating days of class between them, and the mandatory breaks mean we have maybe 50% or less of the usual rehearsal time,” said Bryant. “I also had to locate and purchase quality repertoire scored for smaller bands, called ‘flex bands.’ So once again, huge challenges - but the RU band students are undeterred. They are coming through like champs in the clutch.”
The association made several recommendations on top of the standard protocols to slow the spread of the virus:
- Wind players should be seated six to eight feet apart with instrument bells and performers' faces not seated in opposing directions.
- Instrumentalists should wear specialized masks with slits that allow the ability to insert mouthpieces and should use instrument bell covers.
- Rehearsal and performance spaces should be evaluated and utilized according to room-air exchange rates, which altered rehearsal and class times.
- Commercial-grade HEPA air filtering systems should be employed, and doors should be left open in rooms being used. Bands should play outside, when possible.
“This was a lot to process and implement,” said Bryant. “In 34 years of conducting and performing, I had never seen anything like this. But with the tremendous cooperation and support of Interim President Mark Roberts, Interim Provost Jacob Harney, and my most amazing dean, Fred Tarrant, we managed to implement every one of the recommendations. And I have to mention the amazing Reinhardt University musicians in the wind ensemble. They were real troopers - I am most blessed to have such great students.”
The Reinhardt Wind Ensemble spent the fall semester practicing under a rented tent set up in the Falany Performing Arts Center parking lot. The band bought masks, bell covers and changed their set-up to distance everyone as needed. With winter weather, rehearsals have moved inside with proper accommodations.
“We gave up the idea of doing our normal routine of preparing repertoire to perform in concerts. We couldn’t have live audiences, so I opted to use ‘outside time’ to sight-read close to 30 titles of standard, classic wind band literature during fall classes,” said Bryant. “As most of our music majors are pre-service music educators, this proved to be a valuable way for them to hear and play a large amount of great repertoire that would normally take them years to get through. I was truly trying to make lemonade when the pandemic handed us lemons.”
The program for the first virtual concert will include two Danca Brasileiras (Nos. 1 and 2) by prominent Latin-American composer Ricardo Silva; a “flex-band” transcription of the classic wind band setting by Percy Grainger of an Irish reel titled “Molly on the Shore;” a minimalist-style piece in the style of composer Phillip Glass, written just three years ago by a prominent contemporary female composer Jennifer Jolley, titled “Lichtweg” (Lightway), among others.
Watch the Facebook Live event on the Falany Performing Arts Center Facebook page on Feb. 25. The live video will begin around 6:55 p.m.